Advertisement

The Revolutionary Idea in the Twentieth-Century World

  • Krishan Kumar
Part of the Themes in Focus book series (TIF)

Abstract

In July 1989, as tourists poured into Paris for the celebration of the bicentenary of the fall of the Bastille, Parisians were to be observed setting off in droves for their country retreats. As had become increasingly clear in the preceding months, the French were disenchanted with 1789, bored with the very idea of revolution.l In this they reflected the scholarly consensus that had built up steadily over the post-1968 years in the West. It was shown in the triumph of the ‘revisionist’ historiography of the French Revolution, illustrated in the characteristically engaging — and engagé — remark of Richard Cobb that ‘the French Revolution should never have happened, possibly never did happen, and in any case had no effect one way or the other on most people’s lives’.2 It was shown in the general disparagement of revolution as a mode of transformation, the view that if revolutions had indeed once been, as Marx put it, the locomotives of history, ‘in our industrial (or “post-industrial”) age, the locomotive has become an outdated means of historical transport’.3

Keywords

French Revolution Western Radical Russian Revolution Revolutionary Idea Iranian Revolution 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes and References

  1. 1.
    On the distinctly cool French response to the bicentenary, see E. Hobsbawm, Echoes of the Marseillaise (London, 1990), pp. ix–x, 96–113.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    R. Lowenthal, ‘The “Missing Revolution” of Our Times: Reflections on New Post-Marxist Fundamentals of Social Change’, Encounter, June (1981), p. 18.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    A. Camus, ‘Neither Victim nor Executioner’ (1946), in K. Kumar (ed.), Revolution: the Theory and Practice of a European Idea (London, 1971), pp. 302–3.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Quincy Wright, quoted in S. Neumann, ‘The International Civil War’, World Politics, 1 (1949), p. 334, note 2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 8.
    On the Russian Revolution of 1917 as the model for Third World revolutions, see T. H. Von Laue, Why Lenin? Why Stalin? A Reappraisal of the Russian Revolution. 1900–1930, 2nd edn (Philadelphia, 1971).Google Scholar
  6. 10.
    On the play of international forces, specifically Portugal’s NATO allies, in the Portuguese Revolution of 1974, see M. Kayman, Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Portugal (London, 1987).Google Scholar
  7. 11.
    F. Engels, ‘Introduction’ (1895) to K. Marx, ‘The Class Struggles in France 1848–50’, in K. Marx and F. Engels, Selected Works in Two Volumes, vol. 1 (Moscow, 1962), pp. 118–38.Google Scholar
  8. 12.
    Though the ingenious use of laptop computers and the Internet by some contemporary insurgents, such as the reborn Zapatistas of southern Mexico and the Shining Path guerrillas of Peru, should be noted. For Castro’s remark, see R. Debray, Revolution in the Revolution? Trans. B. Ortiz (Harmondsworth, 1968), p. 67.Google Scholar
  9. 15.
    See e.g. E. Hermassi, ‘Toward a Comparative Study of Revolution’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 18 (1976), pp. 211–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 17.
    See J. H. Billington, Fire in the Minds of Men: Origins of the Revolutionary Faith (London, 1980);Google Scholar
  11. also M. Lasky, Utopia and Revolution (Chicago, 1976), Part One.Google Scholar
  12. 18.
    K. Marx, ‘Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right’, in T. B. Bottomore (trans. and ed.), Karl Marx: Early Writings (London, 1963), p. 55.Google Scholar
  13. 19.
    Lenin is quoted by C. B. A. Behrens, ‘The Spirit of the Terror’, New York Review of Books, 27 February 1969.Google Scholar
  14. 20.
    See especially L. Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed (1936) (London, 1967), pp. 86–114.Google Scholar
  15. 21.
    The debates on these issues among Russian intellectuals in the early years of the revolution are discussed in J. Burbank, Intelligentsia and Revolution: Russian Views of Bolshevism, 1917–22 (New York, 1986).Google Scholar
  16. 22.
    For these developments, see the characteristically incisive discussion in P. Anderson, Considerations on Western Marxism (London, 1976).Google Scholar
  17. 23.
    For Mao’s attempt to ‘transform a whole culture’ through the ‘Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution’, and the relevance of this attempt to Western radicals, see the sympathetic account by R. M. Pfeffer, ‘The Pursuit of Purity: Mao’s Cultural Revolution’, in B. Mazlish, A. D. Kaledin and D. B. Ralston (eds), Revolution: a Reader (New York, 1971), pp. 338–57.Google Scholar
  18. 24.
    A. Huxley, ‘Foreword’ (1946) to Brave New World (Harmondsworth, 1964), p. 10.Google Scholar
  19. 26.
    R. Vaneigem, The Revolution of Everyday Life, trans. J. Fullerton and P. Sieveking (London, 1973), p. 11.Google Scholar
  20. 27.
    The best account of the thinking behind the May events is A. Willener, The Action-image of Society: On Cultural Politicization, trans. A. M. Sheridan Smith (London, 1970);Google Scholar
  21. the most balanced account of the events themselves is B. E. Brown, Protest in Paris: Anatomy of a Revolt (Morristown, NJ, 1974).Google Scholar
  22. 30.
    It is probably true to say that all serious conceptions of revolution have been ‘totalistic’, in the general sense that — at least since the French Revolution of 1789 — they have aimed at the creation of a new species of humanity in a totally transformed social environment. For the intellectual sources of such a conception of revolution, see B. Yack, The Longing for Total Revolution: Philosophic Sources of Social Discontent from Rousseau to Marx and Nietzsche (Berkeley, Calif., 1992).Google Scholar
  23. 31.
    See T. J. Clark, The Absolute Bourgeois: Artists and Politics in France 1848–51 (Princeton, 1982), pp. 9–30.Google Scholar
  24. 32.
    See J. Berger, Art and Revolution: Ernst Neizvestny and the Role of the Artist in the USSR (Harmondsworth, 1967), pp. 31–48;Google Scholar
  25. S. White, The Bolshevik Poster (New Haven and London, 1988).Google Scholar
  26. 33.
    F. Halliday, ‘Revolution in the Third World: 1945 and After’, in E. E. Rice (ed.), Revolution and Counter Revolution (Oxford, 1991), p. 136.Google Scholar
  27. 35.
    F. Castro, History Will Absolve Me (London, 1968), pp. 95ff.Google Scholar
  28. 36.
    J-P. Sartre, ‘Preface’ to F. Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, trans. C. Farrington (Harmondsworth, 1967), pp. 18–19.Google Scholar
  29. For Fanon’s influence among Third World liberation theorists, see E. W. Said, Culture and Imperialism (London, 1994), pp. 322–36.Google Scholar
  30. 37.
    See D. Caute, Fanon (London, 1970), p. 94.Google Scholar
  31. 38.
    On the role of the middle stratum of the peasantry in Third World revolutions, see especially E. Wolf, Peasant Wars of the Twentieth Century (New York, 1969), pp. 276–302.Google Scholar
  32. 41.
    For some examples see H. Munson, Jr, Islam and Revolution in the Middle East (New Haven and London, 1988).Google Scholar
  33. 43.
    See, for interesting discussions of some of these examples, E. Weber, ‘Revolution? Counter-Revolution? What Revolution?’, in W. Laqueur (ed.), Fascism: a Reader’s Guide (Harmondsworth, 1979), pp. 488–531;Google Scholar
  34. R. H. Dir, ‘The Varieties of Revolution’, Comparative Politics, 15 (1983), pp. 281–93;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. E. K. Trimberger, Revolution From Above: Military Bureaucrats and Development in Japan, Turkey, Egypt and Peru (New Brunswick, NJ, 1978).Google Scholar
  36. 45.
    P. Kropotkin, The Great French Revolution 1789–1793, trans. N. F. Dryhurst (London, 1909), p. 582.Google Scholar
  37. 46.
    F. Halliday, ‘The Ends of the Cold War’, New Left Review, 180 (1990), p. 5.Google Scholar
  38. 47.
    J. Habermas, ‘What Does Socialism Mean Today? The Revolutions of Recuperation and the Need for New Thinking’, in R. Blackburn (ed.), After the Fall: the Failure of Communism and the Future of Socialism (London, 1991), p. 27.Google Scholar
  39. 48.
    F. Furet, ‘From 1789 to 1917 to 1989: Looking Backward at Revolutionary Traditions’, Encounter, September (1990), p. 5.Google Scholar
  40. 49.
    Quoted in R. Darnton, ‘Runes of the New Revolutions’, The Times Higher Education Supplement, September 6 (1991), p. 17.Google Scholar
  41. 50.
    B. Geremek, ‘Between Hope and Despair’, Daedalus, Winter (1990), p. 99.Google Scholar
  42. 54.
    See especially M. Frankland, The Patriots’ Revolution (Chicago, 1992), pp. 318–33.Google Scholar
  43. 55.
    See, for example, T. Garton Ash, We, the People: the Revolution of ‘89 (Cambridge, 1990), p. 14.Google Scholar
  44. 58.
    See, for example, Octavio Pat, ‘Twilight of Revolution’, in I. Howe (ed.), Twenty-Five Years of Dissent (New York and London, 1979), pp. 314–25.Google Scholar
  45. 59.
    A. Camus, The Rebel, trans. A. Bower (Harmondsworth, 1962), p. 29.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Krishan Kumar 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Krishan Kumar

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations